South Ossetia is no stranger to conflict. There has been sporadic violence for years as authorities there battle to breakaway from Georgian rule.
Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili has made restoring control over the territory and fellow breakaway region Abkhazia a priority.
Separatists have effectively controlled South Ossetia since a war in the early 1990s that killed several thousand people. Declaring the territory’s independence, they have waged a campaign to win international recognition.
Most people living in South Ossetia are ethnically distinct from Georgians. They have close ties with the neighbouring Russian region of North Ossetia. And as violence started to escalate, families headed across the border.
Tbilisi accuses Russia of arming South Ossetian forces, something Moscow denies.